The topic of illegal immigration is currently a hot button issue in the political landscape of the United States.
Those who oppose legal immigration or seek to deport more people who are in the United States illegally offer arguments based on protectionism and, sometimes, nativism.
Do immigrants negatively affect the economy of the United States? Will stricter immigration laws benefit U.S. taxpayers in the long run?
These are questions that Americans need to answer as we look toward the future of immigration in our country.
Stricter Immigration Laws Could Result in Lower American and Immigrant Wages
That immigrants cause a decrease in native-born wages is perhaps the most used argument against immigration.
Many economists would argue that no, immigrants do not take American jobs and that enforcing stricter immigration laws would harm the U.S. economy.
George Borjas, a Harvard professor, recently put forth new research regarding the Mariel boatlift crisis that occurred in Miami, Florida.
His research focused on the economic impact of immigrants on Miami.
During this crisis, approximately 125,000 Cuban refugees arrived in Florida between April and October of 1980.
Borjas’ analysis concluded that while the wages of native-born Miami high school dropouts decreased as a result of the influx of Cuban workers, the wages of natives with a high school education or greater increased significantly due to the arrival of the immigrants.
The argument that immigrants decrease American wages is not completely accurate.
According to a 2015 American Community Survey, the majority of Americans, over 90% see an increased relative wages due to immigration.
Only 9.4% of Americans, those who are over age 25 and are high school dropouts see a slight decrease in wages due to immigration.
In other words, the vast majority of Americans benefit from immigration while those who did not receive a high school education and who often compete for jobs that immigrants without an education are more likely to take may see a slight wage decrease due to immigration.
The argument that immigrants use up public welfare resources is not entirely valid as unauthorized immigrants are typically not able to qualify for federal benefits.
Further Restricting Immigration Could Negatively Impact Long-Term U.S. Economic Growth
More restrictive immigration laws could hurt the growth of the United States Economy in the long term.
In a 2017 report, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that immigration “has an overall positive impact on the long-run economic growth of the United States.
While first-generation immigrants cost American’s over $1,600 per person per year, second-generation immigrants are one of the most substantial economic and fiscal contributors to the United States economy, contributing over $1,700 per year per person.
Third-generation immigrants and native-born Americans add approximately $1,300 per person per year.
It is difficult to determine how much people in the United States without authorization contribute to or cost native-born Americans, but the study suggests that unauthorized immigrants positively affect the U.S. economy more than legal immigrants because as a whole, they are younger and do not qualify for any public benefits.
This report demonstrates that as a whole, U.S. immigration has a positive impact on the U.S. economy.
Stricter Immigration Laws Could Lead to Unfilled Jobs in the United States
In a recent interview with PBS NewsHour, University of California, Davis, economics professor Giovanni Peri noted that when compared to native-born Americans with the same level of education, immigrants work more.
For example, 70% of immigrants with no high school diploma work while only 50% of native-born Americans with no high school diploma work.
The more people work, the more the U.S. government can collect in federal and state taxes.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic policy recently estimated that undocumented immigrants pay approximately 11.6 billion dollars a year in taxes.
Hamutal Bernstein, an Urban Institute senior research associate, argues that there are already many barriers to eligibility for immigrants seeking to access welfare programs.
Indeed, one out of every three immigrants has earned a college level or graduate degree.
These immigrants, in particular, are a net gain to the United States economy when they become highly skilled workers.
Immigrants make up a high portion of jobs in the healthcare industry, child care industry, and agricultural farm industry.
As baby boomers age, it is crucial that we have enough caretakers of elderly retirees.
Immigrants make up around 25% of all home care, nursing, and psychiatric aides.
Entrepreneurial immigrants start over 25% of new businesses in the United States.
Furthermore, the bipartisan group New American Economy reports that immigrants are over 15% more likely than native-born workers to work unusual hours and immigrants are more likely to work in dangerous jobs.
With the economy U.S. job market’s recent growth, it is more than able to absorb new workers.
In fact, without new immigrant workers, the U.S. economy could suffer by not having enough workers to fill job openings.
Stricter Immigration Laws Would Not Necessarily Decrease Use of Welfare Programs
Only immigrants who have been lawful permanent residents for at least five years can legally access welfare programs.
Many of the nine million immigrants who are legal residents do not qualify for these welfare programs because their income levels are too high.
Some argue that enacting stricter immigration laws would save us money because fewer immigrant families would use the public school system.
While educating immigrants does cost taxpayers money, the economic benefit of educating second-generation immigrants who, if they graduate from high school will hopefully earn higher paying jobs and as a result pay higher federal and state income and property taxes.
Finding High-Quality Immigration Representation is Essential
Immigrants play a vital role in the United States economy.
Stricter immigration laws could cause a net detriment to the United States economy and could result in many essential jobs remaining unfilled.
Are you an immigrant who needs to obtain an immigrant visa or non-immigrant visa?